Study Casts Doubt on 'Good' Cholesterol
Raising levels of "good" cholesterol may not be so good for you, after all. Doctors have long preached that HDL cholesterol could potentially protect against heart disease, while LDL cholesterol raises the risk of heart problems. A new study, published Wednesday in the Lancet, challenges that theory. Researchers examined the health of more than 100,000 people, and found that those with genes that boosted their HDL did not have a lowered risk of heart attacks. If HDL were indeed protective, those with genes causing higher levels should have had less heart disease, the study authors theorize. "The current study tells us that when it comes to HDL we should seriously consider going back to the drawing board, in this case meaning back to the laboratory," Michael Lauer, director of the division of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, told The New York Times. "We need to encourage basic laboratory scientists to figure out where HDL fits in the puzzle—just what exactly it is a marker for."
9 Best Foods for Your Skin
You are what you eat? Maybe not, but you do look the way you eat. Putting your best face forward starts with putting the right ingredients in your mouth. "The same foods that are good for your health are good for your skin," says Valori Treloar, a dermatologist based in Newton, Mass. "Your skin is just the outside part of your body."
Want a healthy, glowing complexion? Load up on nutritious meals and snacks, like sweet potatoes, mangoes, and canned tuna. Experts say these foods will do as much for your appearance as your inner health. Here are nine skin-boosting choices:
1. Tomatoes. They're full of lycopene, a phytochemical that provides red pigment and health benefits. Lycopene helps eliminate skin-aging free radicals caused by ultraviolet rays—in other words, protecting against sun damage. To reap the most benefits, heat them up: A half-cup of cooked tomatoes, for example, packs 16 milligrams of lycopene. A daily dose coupled with sunscreen will help block the burn.
2. Mangoes, papaya, and apricots. Got that washed-out look? Load up on some fruit. Mangoes, papaya, and apricots are full of pigments called carotenoids, which are stored in the layer of fat directly beneath the skin and can improve color. "They peek through, giving you a rosy glow," says registered dietitian Karen Ansel, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and co-author of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life.
3. Cocoa powder. Flavonals, the antioxidants in dark chocolate, reduce roughness in the skin and protect against sun damage. A study published in 2006 in the Journal of Nutrition found that women who drank cocoa fortified with 326 milligrams of flavonals a day had better skin texture and stronger resistance to UV rays than those who didn't get as much of the antioxidants. Just a few ounces a day—or a standard Hershey's Dark Chocolate bar—is sufficient. Another tasty way to get enough? Spoon some cocoa powder into your morning coffee, Ansel suggests. [Read more: 9 Best Foods for Your Skin]
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Is a Gluten-Free Diet Smart for Weight Loss?
Miley Cyrus is looking leaner than ever these days, fueling mass speculation of an eating disorder. Last month, she took to Twitter to defend her slim physique: "For everyone calling me anorexic, I have a gluten and lactose allergy. It's not about weight, it's about health. Gluten is crapppp anyway!"
While Cyrus' weight loss may be due to a legitimate food allergy, scads of other celebrities and non-famous folks alike are adopting a gluten-free diet—for weight reasons, not health. "It's definitely trendy now. Everyone is talking about it," says Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C. And the food industry is apparently cashing in on the trend, too: By 2015, sales of gluten-free foods and beverages are expected to hit $5 billion, according to Packaged Facts, a market research firm. "I see the positive side of being more aware of gluten and trying not to overdo it," says Politi, "but I don't think it's a good way to lose weight."
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, as well as many common food additives. It gives dough elasticity and baked goods their chewiness. (It's found in pizza, beer, burgers, and pancakes, for example.) Those who have celiac disease—caused by an overactive immune response to gluten in the small intestine—are encouraged to go gluten-free to avoid digestive symptoms like pain and diarrhea, and even permanent intestinal damage or malnutrition. There's no cure or medication other than a gluten-free diet. About 1 percent of the population suffers from celiac and about 10 percent have a less specific sensitivity, according to the Mayo Clinic. [Read more: Is a Gluten-Free Diet Smart for Weight Loss?]
Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.